Sources and Structure

Sulforaphane is a compound within the isothiocyanate group of organosulfur compounds. It is obtained from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbages. It is produced when the enzyme myrosinase transforms glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate, into sulforaphane upon damage to the plant (such as from blending or chewing), which allows the two compounds to mix and react. Young broccoli sprouts are particularly rich in glucoraphanin.

Sources of sulforaphane and/or glucoraphanin include:

  • Mature broccoli plant (44-171mg/100g dry weight)
  • Broccoli sprouts (1153mg/100g dry weight)

 

The following video on Sulforaphane by Dr. Jed Fahey from John Hopkins University.

Skip ahead to time index 6:00 – this is where Dr. Fahey actually starts his talk.

 

Diabetes

Scientists have identified a network of 50 genes that cause symptoms associated with Type 2 diabetes. They also identified a compound called sulforaphane — which is found naturally in broccoli, and in particular, broccoli sprouts — that could turn down the expression of those genes (findings published in the Journal of Science Translational Medicine).

Science Translational Medicine – Sulforaphane reduces hepatic glucose production and improves glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes
The American Journal of Pharmacy Benefits – Broccoli Extract Demonstrates Potential for Diabetes Blood Glucose Control
The Scientist – Broccoli Extract Lowers Blood Sugar in Diabetics
Science Alert – Broccoli Could Be a Secret Weapon Against Diabetes, Say Scientists
Medscape – Antioxidant in Broccoli May Help Fight Diabetes
Medical Press – Sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts found to improve glucose levels in diabetics
Science Daily – Could broccoli sprouts be a secret weapon against diabetes?

Autism

In this study, the behavioral outcome measures (ABC, SRS, CGI-I) and clinical observations by study physicians and many parents/caregivers, all before unmasking, indicated that many of the participants who were treated with sulforaphane had statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements during treatment with sulforaphane. The substantial improvements of individual ASD patients’ trajectories were conspicuous and suggest that further investigation of sulforaphane in ASD is promising.

Autism Speaks – Broccoli-Sprout Extract Shows Promise for Easing Autism Symptoms
U.S. National Library of Medicine – Sulforaphane treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
U.S. National Institutes of Health – Sulforaphane-rich Broccoli Sprout Extract for Autism

 

 

Breast Cancer

A recent study performed at the University of California Santa Barbara demonstrated how broccoli sprouts worked in the same pathways and in the same manor as the two leading chemotherapy drugs used for breast cancer. The researchers concluded that adding broccoli sprouts as part of the treatment regime, would perhaps allow a reduction in the amount of the drugs, in an effort to reduce toxicity in existing treatments. In a recent University of Michigan study, researchers using human breast cancer tissue and lab mice with induced breast cancer, found that sulforaphane, unlike chemotherapy drugs, attacked and killed the cancer stem cells. Without eliminating the stem cells the cancer can return.

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – Suppression of microtubule dynamic instability and turnover in MCF7 breast cancer cells by sulforaphane
Journal of Carcinogenesis & Mutagenesis – Sulforaphane Inhibits Metastatic Events in Breast Cancer Cells through Genetic and Epigenetic Regulation
Clinical Cancer Research – Sulforaphane, a Dietary Component of Broccoli/Broccoli Sprouts, Inhibits Breast Cancer Stem Cells
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics – Sulforaphane induces cell type–specific apoptosis in human breast cancer cell lines
PLOS.org – Sulforaphane Causes Epigenetic Repression of hTERT Expression in Human Breast Cancer Cell Lines
American Association for Cancer Research – Isolation and In vitro Propagation of Tumorigenic Breast Cancer Cells with Stem/Progenitor Cell Properties
U.S. National Institutes of Health – Broccoli Sprout Extract in Treating Women Who Have Had a Mammogram and Breast Biopsy

Carcinogens

Chronic exposure to carcinogens represents the major risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma. Smoothies made from broccoli sprouts, which are rich in glucoraphanin and its bioactive metabolite sulforaphane, promote detoxication of airborne pollutants in humans.

National Academy of Sciences – Broccoli sprouts: An exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens
PubMed Central Canada – Chemoprotection by sulforaphane: Keep one eye beyond Keap1
American Association of Cancer Research – Prevention of Carcinogen-Induced Oral Cancer by Sulforaphane
Oxford Academics Integrative Cancer Research – Modulation of the metabolism of airborne pollutants by glucoraphanin-rich and sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout beverages in Qidong, China

Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s response to outside threats like infection, stress, or toxic chemicals. When the immune system senses danger, it responds by activating proteins meant to protect tissues and cells. In a normal situation, inflammation serves as a friend to the body. However, if immune cells overreact inflammation can be targeted directly against healthy tissues. Sulforaphane reduces systemic inflammation and expression of multiple inflammatory biomarkers.

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – Synergistic effect of combination of phenethyl isothiocyanate and sulforaphane or curcumin and sulforaphane in the inhibition of inflammation.
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – Sulforaphane Protects against Cardiovascular Disease via Nrf2 Activation

Osteoporosis

Sulforaphane has another remarkable benefit: it increases bone density. Studies show the bone-building properties of sulforaphane and pharmaceutical companies have attempted (and failed) to produce effective osteoporosis drugs.

Academia.edu – Reversal of osteoblastic cell apoptosis
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – Sulforaphane reverses glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis in osteoblastic cells through regulation of the Nrf2 pathway
Journal of Biological Chemistry – Anabolic and Antiresorptive Modulation of Bone Homeostasis by the Epigenetic Modulator Sulforaphane, a Naturally Occurring Isothiocyanate

Prostate Cancer

Stanford University researchers discovered that sulforaphane both inhibited prostate cancer cell growth and initiated arrest of the life cycle.

Further evidence of the anti-cancer capabilities of sulforaphane was seen in a Canadian study. In that case, researchers found that high levels of hydrogen sulfide were released when sulforaphane was added to prostate cancer cells. This is critical because it demonstrates that hydrogen sulfide helps sulforaphane inhibit the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells.

PLOS.org – Effects of Sulforaphane and 3,3′-Diindolylmethane on Genome-Wide Promoter Methylation in Normal Prostate Epithelial Cells and Prostate Cancer Cells
MDPI Basel, Switzerland – Sulforaphane (SFN): An Isothiocyanate in a Cancer Chemoprevention
ClinicalTrials.org – Sulforaphane in Treating Patients With Recurrent Prostate Cancer
National Academy of Sciences – Sulforaphane destabilizes the androgen receptor in prostate cancer cells by inactivating histone deacetylase 6
Oxford Academic – Sulforaphane induces caspase-mediated apoptosis in cultured PC-3 human prostate cancer cells and retards growth of PC-3 xenografts in vivo
American Association for Cancer Research – Sulforaphane Causes Autophagy to Inhibit Release of Cytochrome c and Apoptosis in Human Prostate Cancer Cells